(This is Part 6 of a six-part series. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.)

Our last five articles have examined the demographic, digital, economic and Web trends will influence your business in 2007.

(This is Part 6 of a six-part series. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.)

Our last five articles have examined the demographic, digital, economic and Web trends will influence your business in 2007. Today’s article examines six more trends that will affect your business now. 

#16: Transparency

Perhaps the most profound change in the industry is the shift from the brokers to the clients having control of the transaction. Our privacy has virtually disappeared. If you want to determine the past history of a doctor, a worker in your home or just about anyone else, visit ChoicePoint and check out the services they provide. The one that is most relevant to real estate transactions is the CLUE database. CLUE provides a listing of insurance claims on every property in the United States. Buyers have the option of making their sale contingent upon the CLUE report, but it’s important to note that only the owner of the property can obtain the report. This is a powerful tool for helping buyers to avoid problem properties. PropertyShark.com provides permit and other recorded information about properties on its Web site. A document from the Internal Revenue Service Web site, www.irs.gov/pub/irs-soi/prodserv.pdf, provides a wealth of statistics regarding income for different areas. Of special interest is the “IRS Migrations Report” that provides statistics on the number of people at each income level in various locations as well as their ethnicity.

Opportunity: Transparency is here to stay. Capitalize on it by using these sites to investigate your listings before taking them as well as to investigate properties before your buyers make an offer.

#17: Increased consolidation

Consolidation is happening on multiple fronts. Multiple Listing Services are merging. Many of the larger firms are acquiring smaller firms in their market areas. The most interesting consolidation, however, is the one taking place in terms of technology. For a number of years, agents have complained that, “I’m being $29.95ed to death.” In 2007 expect to see the stronger technology companies either build their own solutions or acquire companies to fill in the gaps for their existing service. For example, Point2Agent has a free Web site product, free blog, free national listing service, as well as free syndication to numerous Web sites plus to other agents. Their enhanced services include multiple automated marketing campaigns, some search-engine optimization assistance, a listing notification program like that provided by Coldwell Banker’s Personal Retriever program, as well as free utility transfers.

Opportunity: Divert most or all of your newspaper advertising budget and spend it online. If you are not tech-savvy, hire a virtual assistant to handle this for you and use the money you save on print advertising to pay for it.

#18: Is Zillow the death knell for Realtor.com and the local MLS system?

Zillow visitors receive a free evaluation of their property’s value. Their current plans are to create a Web page for every home in the United States. Owners can contribute their own content about their property. Zillow also has a new tool that will allow visitors to post a price that, in essence, says, “Make me sell.” Zillow is now inviting agents and brokers to post their listings online at no charge. What’s particularly interesting is that while Zillow’s traffic continues to climb, traffic at Realtor.com is decreasing. In fact, rather than visiting Realtor.com, buyers and sellers are now more likely to visit a brokerage or an individual agent’s site (Real Trends 2006).

Opportunity: When you take a listing, you must make a business decision about whether you want to place it on Zillow. Your seller may want to “claim their house” and post their asking price as the “Make me sell price” on Zillow. No one knows what effect Zillow will have in the long run on broker Web traffic. The real question here is whether this “free” exposure will put other providers of listing content out of business. 

#19: Ditch the paper and go paperless

While the trend to go “paperless” started several years ago, look for more agents and brokerages to make the move. There are a number of excellent tablet computers on the market. The VREO Red Tablet software creates an integrated solution that provides agents with solid systems that will cut their costs and increase their efficiency.

Opportunity: If you want to increase the number of transactions that you close, going paperless with the Red Tablet software will save you substantial amounts of time and money. Also, if you’re not a systems person, this software creates the systems you need for you. The result: better communication, higher client retention and improved risk management.

#20: Close the same day

According to Anne Randolph of Lore Magazine, in the near future, efficiencies in technology will allow us to close transactions on the same day. Currently, most companies have their mortgage, title and sales services separated into “silos.” Look for our fragmented processes to become integrated into a single process in the future. The consumer wants one-stop shopping and will drive the industry to deliver it.

Opportunity: A quick close means that you will receive your commission check the same day. On the other hand, quick closing may also mean that you do less work and hence, are compensated less.

#21: In-town — not the ‘Burbs

Many people have grown weary of long commutes. The trend is to sell your big house in the suburbs and to move back into the central city. As a result, we are seeing a resurgence in “pedestrian communities,” including lofts and mixed-use properties that combine urban living with local business. In terms of getting away from the hustle and bustle, hot new trends include vacation-home clubs at places such as the Four Seasons and the Ritz Carlton. Other hot trends include fractional ownerships in ultra-high-end properties or condominium cruise ships.

Opportunity: Each of these trends represents a new niche you can create for your business. Given how new these are, there is probably very little competition in terms of other brokers.

The rapidly changing real estate landscape offers a tremendous opportunity to those who are willing to innovate. Remember, however, that all you need is one or two key differentiators to eliminate virtually all of your competition and to make your business soar.

Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of Realestatecoach.com, is the author of “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters” and “Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?” Both are available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com or visit her blog at www.LuxuryClues.com.

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